General Dance Discussion > Getting personal with dance teachers?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by pygmalion, Dec 21, 2003.

  1. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Question to all you dancers. Just how personal do you get with your dance teacher? I'm not alluding to romance, here. Just relationships -- friendships, if you will. Do you view your dance teacher as a service provider, or a close friend, or something in between? And how to you maintain a comfortable balance? Is there a right or a wrong here?
  2. tango

    tango New Member

    Well I have to say that it's a business relationship. I would like to get to know my dance instructors more since we spend more time with them them many of our friends and you can't help but develop a 'type' of relationship with them. But, alas it's not built on a real foundation for friendship, at our studio anyway, it's 'pay to play', not a good way to start a friendship. I have just resolved myself to the fact that they see me as a pay cheque and I see them as a service provider. In my heart it's not the way I act in life and I always try to make friends everywhere I go, even the last car salesman I dealt with, but because of the way this studio operates it's only in their best interest if I develop any emotional attachements to the instructors.

    Now, if you find an instructor who is open and willing to be genuine in that friendship then by all means go for it, we can never have too many friends! But, you know the signs that say it's about money or a one way relationship and no-one needs any of those types of friends.
  3. peachexploration

    peachexploration New Member

    Well, all the instructors I've had make it a point NOT to get too close. I definitely understand that and for the most part rather it be that way also. It's just better for both parties. In the beginning, I tried to make it more of a casual, friendly relationship but I learned very quickly by attitude and body language that is was a no no. It's all good. I'd rather make friends with other "students". I'm mostly dancing with them anyway. :D
  4. KevinL

    KevinL New Member

    Some studios actively discourage interpersonal interactions between students and teachers. The NDCA guidelines ( section II, D say that if a teacher is unable to maintain a professional relatioship that they should terminate the relationship.

    I think that is a little harsh, and where do you draw the line? All my friends in Vermont have taken some of my dance classes. I tried to behave professionally while they were in my class, but some of them have moved beyond me and haven't been in my classes for several months. We are friends now, but that is because they are no longer my students.

    One of my ex-students now friends had a party at her house last night and everyone there had taken a some of my classes. Some have moved on, but there were some others who are still my students. The difference between being professional and being friendly is difficult. One couple wants to invite people to a dinner party at their house in February, but because they specifically want to invite me, my schedule dictates when the party will be held.

    I feel somewhat uncomfortable with all these great and wonderful people because they do (or did) pay me to spend time in my classes, and yet they still want me to be involved in their lives socially. It's a difficult position for me, especially because I don't have non-dancing friends locally. How do I deal? I'm professional but friendly in class, and (unfortunately) reserved around them outside of class. Is that the right answer? I'm not sure, but it works for me.

  5. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yes. This is a tough one. And from the student's perspcetive, it's not easy either. Where do you draw the line? Especially if you're like me and have an open and friendly personality, it seems very unnatural to spend so much time in someone's company and not become friends. But if you do become friends, how do you maintain the professional distance it takes to accept effective coaching, or perhaps move onto another teacher?

    This is a tough one, no matter how you slice it.
  6. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    As a dance teacher, I have found it to be a disadvantage to become friends with the students. Generally, I just don't keep the students as long. I can't necessarily pinpoint exactly what happens. Nevertheless, I have cultivated some great friendships with people over the years, and there can be benefits of making friends. I just have to be prepared to lose the teacher-student relationship.
  7. salsachinita

    salsachinita New Member

    Earlier this year I spent some time seeing this dance instructor, and noticed that his 'closeness' (friendship only) to his students seemed to bother me a little.

    Most of the pros I know would generally be socially friendly to their students, but the respectable student-teacher distance (dancer's hierachy?) is maintained. (This way the money exchange became clear?)

    This guy was constantly invited to go to his students' places to have dinner, going to clubs etc. His phone would ring or he would get text messages (all kinds of hours!). AND he would actually GO to all of these things if he was not performing (dragging me along most of the time, so jealousy isn't an issue).

    Then he would wonder if he should charge these students when they turn up to group classes :shock: !

    I was uncomfortable with the situation from the start, and I came to doubt the intentions of some of these students too......

    What do you guys think?
  8. Jana

    Jana New Member

    How Far Should the Teacher/Student Relationship Extend?

    It is a personal matter and I'm sure a difficult one for many people. It would seem natural if a person doesn't socialize to want to put all of their energy and feelings into their dance instructor. Especially given the fact that they take private lessons with him/her and there's nothing like that one-on-one feeling for 45 minutes or so. However, one must be very careful about this. Though I have heard of teachers getting romantically involved with their students (I know of three teachers who ended up marrying their students), generally speaking, its strictly business. Many teachers would rather drop their "lovelorn" students than risk either losing their jobs and/or their livelihood. It gets even stickier if the teacher already has a significant other, fiance or spouse. Then, most likely, they would tell their student to find another teacher. Besides, if you have a good teacher, is it worth the risk to lose him/her because you have feelings for them? However, my teacher is very friendly with me as well as his other students. And, he did invite his students over his condo for Christmas (he lives with his girlfriend who is also his dance partner). And I know he definitely chums around with some of his male students who dance out of that studio. I remember making a comment to him when I first started dancing with him, when overhearing someone say that so and so was dating his student, that that's a definite "no no". His reply was "hey, if he wants to, its his business". That's part of the advantage of being an independent teacher (someone who is not employed by a given studio). So, there you have it.
  9. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    Welcome to the forums Jana it very good to have you along!

    It certainly is a great topic for discussion... not a cut and dry scenerio
  10. cl5814

    cl5814 New Member

    My 2c is that friendship is where the relationship thing starts, that in my case went sour........... to the point where the teacher became someone i would rather not associate with. Friendship yes, but plutonic friendship, that's it if both parties are proffessional about the friendship. Afterall, be careful.
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hi Jana! Welcome.

    I think both you and cl5814 have made good points about the teacher/student friendship issue.

    I've had two dance teachers (out of thirteen) to whom I've extended my friendship, and the issues have been around differing definitions of teacher/student relationships. To me, the teacher/student relationship between an adult and a child looks a lot different than the teacher/student relationship between two adults. I had one teacher who agreed with me, and one who didn't. (Incidentally, I'm a lot more careful giving friendship than romance. Romances come and go, but my friendships go deep and pretty much last forever.)

    It's tough, no matter how you slice it, and doesn't necessarily have to involve romance to get sticky. And, incidentally, teachers are almost as likely to fall for students as the reverse.

    I guess the goal is to get things clearly defined up front and keep negotiating until everyone involved reaches consensus, and then keep the lines of communication open, even if it gets uncomfortable or embarrassing.
  12. Jana

    Jana New Member

    Re Getting Personal with Dance Teachers

    If you can (and this can be hard), try to see your teacher out of "teacher mode". In other words, observe him/her, if possible, when they are not at the studio or teaching students. Say, for example, if the studio has a special event coming up and invites all private students. So, you have a mix of teachers and students. Or even at a given competition where there are a lot of people around. Observe your teacher. Are they easily commingling with other teachers and other students from other studios. If so, how do they act with other people there in general? This way, you see them not as your teacher but as a regular person. Do they only talk with other teachers? Are they partial only to their students who are paying out the most money for lessons? Or seem to favor their students who are doing exceptionally well in competitions? If you dance with your teacher in competitions, how do they treat you? Is it "thanks for doing the comp, see you at the studio" next week or whenever you normally have a lesson with them or do they say, "you did great at this comp, hope you stay to enjoy the rest of it." If they encourage you to stay on and watch, then they are open, friendly and want you to feel a part of the whole event. If they brush you off or are not very encouraging, then suffice to say that they pretty much are only interested in you for the money. At my studio I dance out of, the studio encourages their students to attend dance parties and once a year they have a Thanksgiving get together for all private students and openly call their students their friends. So, in that way, even though the students are paying for their lessons and anything else they get involved at the studio, the studio also sees them as friends, however casually that may be. Some teachers are "hands on" in that they will hug their students after a lesson. That can sometimes give a person mix signals unless they do it with everyone. Should that happen and you are not comfortable with it, by all means, tell your teacher to stop doing that. The bottom line is being comfortable with your teacher and if you find yourself "falling" for them, you need to put the brakes on your heart and see if its something that could end up hurting you, either personally or in regards to your dancing. Relationships can happen between teacher and student but you need to be sure that both of you are on the same page, so to speak and recognize the possible consequences to your dancing should it become serious. Sorry for the long message here!
  13. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Re: Re Getting Personal with Dance Teachers

    No apology needed Jana... some good information and suggestions there! :D
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Re: Re Getting Personal with Dance Teachers

    Great post, Jana. I think your bottom line is a good one. The policy I've developed is to "let the teacher lead." Meaning let them decide how friendly or strictly professional the relationship is going to be. I've never had a crush on a teacher, so I'm not sure how I'd handle that situation. But, in terms of friendship, I offer friendship if I feel it will be well received. If not, it's strictly business. That policy works well if everybody is committed to communicating openly.

    Edit: I want to be completely honest about this, because I think it's important. I've never fallen in love with a dance teacher, although I've had some teachers who were truly loveable people. I have felt physical attraction a time or two, but I'm too old and cynical to mistake that for anything other than what it is -- curiosity. So I've never allowed myself to develop deeper feelings for any one of my teachers. That said, friendliness and cordiality are a given. Just, as a rule, not deeper friendship or love.
  15. dragon3085

    dragon3085 New Member

    Life is too short to let business get in the way of making a friend or friends. And for purposes of this discussion it sound like we are just talking about that and not trying to date or marry your instructor. That would be whole nother can of worms. We have thing called free will and I think we are free to form friendship irregardless of the artificial implications that business try to force on us. Just be prepared to take the good with the bad. In real traditional martial arts schools, It not uncommon for upper belts to be good friends with the instructors, I mean come on these are people that you entrust your health to in terms of letting them hit you and do thing that can cause bodily injury. In fact the dojo is like your family with both bigger and smaller siblings. Dancing is by far a more social event, so I should think you would want those bonds to be even stronger.

    just my 2cents
  16. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I understand where you're coming from, dragon3085, and to an extent, I agree. I have made "friends" with two of my former teachers.

    It just gets fuzzy, because in some instances, dance studios have actual written policies that prohibit teachers making friends with students, and in other cases, teachers have personal codes of ethics that limit the extent of friendship.

    I'm not looking for love, but I am looking to make friends wherever I can. But, as a true friend, I don't want to create a difficult or impossible situation for my teacher. So I more or less let them decide what they want, and follow their lead.
  17. dragon3085

    dragon3085 New Member

    Thats true, some studios are afraid they will lose money or something. I wonder how legal such policies are since you essential denying someone a basic human right. I bet if contested it would be found unconstitutional so long as the person wasn't teaching on side for under the table payment. As far as ethics go, well they have free will to have those too- in you have to respect them. In some cases I have seen students complete their journey in dance or go to another studio, in which case they are free to make friends with form instructors.

  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yeah. I guess you do have to respect people's ethics, even if you disagree with them. For me, friendship is a precious thing, without limits, and if I offer it to you, I mean it, non-fraternization policy or no.

    That's why I'm so careful about offering friendship to dance teachers. A lot of them don't feel free to accept my friendship. *shrug* :?
  19. dragon3085

    dragon3085 New Member

    yes its sad because I think in many cases they are taken advantage of by the studio in being told they can be sued if the fraternize or other things. If they don't know any better you can't blame them for covering their butts for what amounts to in my mind, intimidation tactics.
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    And you can't blame the studios for wanting to protect their customer base.

    It's just a shame that so many potential friendships never happen, and that so many people can get hurt.

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